Reno fires move away from homes

RENO - Getting a handle on Reno's worst fire is proving to be a difficult task.

Determined to make headway while sharing personnel on more than 50 fires throughout the West, fire commanders have scoured the country for help.

An incident command team of firefighters and managers from the southern United States relieved the Sierra Front team at the Arrowcreek fire Wednesday afternoon.

The fire started Tuesday during an evening thunderstorm. Record temperatures combined with unseasonably low humidity combined to make the grasses and pinon-juniper highly flammable

Sierra Front incident commanders and firefighters have been working virtually non-stop to keep the 4,000-acre blaze away from homes. At last count six homes were damaged but none was destroyed.

Early reports of homes being destroyed were unfounded, said Nevada Division of Forestry spokesman Steve Frady.

As of Wednesday, the fire was 65 percent contained, a number that Frady said could change quickly, depending on weather conditions.

"We are watching down-slope afternoon winds," he said. "That's when the wind conditions can become erratic and spread. It's still early and this fire could make a run."

Between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning the the Arrowcreek fire increased in size by 400 acres. The new land is far from homes, but also roadless and difficult to access.

To overcome that problem, three tankers and two helicopters worked during the daylight hours, dropping fire retardant and water. At least one helicopter was using water from hazards sites in the Arrowcreek golf course.

One reason for bringing new incident commanders is to relieve local commanders for potential lightning-related fire activity.

"We are concerned it will go over the hill into the Mount Rose Wilderness Area," Frady said. In the case that it does extend in that direction, commanders relieved by the southern team will be able to coordinate new attack strategies.

While the number of firefighters has been in flux since the beginning, Frady said on Wednesday that 250 personnel - including inmate crews - were at the fire site. A hand crew from Alaska arrived Wednesday afternoon.

No injuries - other than a bee sting to a newspaper reporter - have been recorded, Frady said.

One Carson City fire engine was standing by for potential problems caused by evening weather, said Ed Young, the facilities unit leader.

"They are just taking a rest and getting ready," Young said. "They were out all night."

Frady and Young said firefighters usually work in 12-hour shifts with an eight-hour rest.

The Sierra Nevada Chapter of the American Red Cross was also quick to respond with help after Tuesday's flare-up. Shelters were open Tuesday night at Galena High School and O'Brien Middle School, but were closed when homes were out of harm's way. Evacuations were voluntary.

The Red Cross is assisting fire personnel by making food available and handing out water at the Arrowcreek and Red Rock fire command posts. Arrowcreek firefighters were dispatched from Ted Hunstberger Elementary School.

Personnel at the Red Rock site are dealing with a fire that has burned an estimated 1,000 acres. No homes were threatened as firefighters worked to contain the flames.

This year 346,000 acres of rangeland have burned in Nevada. Last year 1.7 million acres were scorched, setting a state record.


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